Nazi Germany under World War II was a series of massive events in world history. It lasted from 1939 to 1945.
Scroll down to see articles about the post-World War One events that caused Nazi Germany to form, along with posts on Nazi society, politics, propaganda, and the major events that occurred in Nazi Germany, leading up to the events of World War Two and its eventual downfall.
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Nazi Germany: Politics, Society, and Key Events
(See Main Article: Nazi Germany: Politics, Society, and Key Events)
Nazi Germany is a reference for the twelve-year period in German history (1933-1945) during the totalitarian dictatorship of Adolf Hitler through the Nazi Party, which was founded in 1919 as the German Workers’ Party. The group grew in retaliation to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and promoted German pride and anti-Semitism, two traits that infused Nazi Germany.
Sudetenland: The German Loss of Land that Presaged Nazi Germany
At the end of World War One the treaties of Versailles, St Germain and Trianon broke the Austro-Hungarian Empire and took land from both countries and also from Germany to give to other countries.
The Sudetenland was taken away from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and given to Czechoslovakia. The region contained Czechs, Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians. Although American President Woodrow Wilson had wanted people in disputed regions to be allowed to decide where they would live this did not happen.
When Adolf Hitler came to power he promised to rip up the treaty of Versailles and claim back land that had been taken away from Germany. In 1936 he had marched soldiers into the Rhineland region and reclaimed it for Germany. In March 1938 German troops marched into Austria. The Austrian leader was forced to hold a vote asking the people whether they wanted to be part of Germany. The results of the vote were fixed and showed that 99% of Austrian people wanted Anschluss (union with Germany). The Austrian leader asked Britain, France and Italy for aid. Hitler promised that Anschluss was the end of his expansionist aims and not wanting to risk war, the other countries did nothing.
Hitler did not keep his word and six months later demanded that the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia be handed over to Germany. Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain, met with Hitler three times during September 1938 to try to reach an agreement that would prevent war. The Munich Agreement stated that Hitler could have the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia provided that he promised not to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia. Hitler was not a man of his word and in March 1939 invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Despite calls for help from the Czechoslovak government, neither Britain nor France was prepared to take military action against Hitler. However, some action was now necessary and believing that Poland would be Hitler’s next target, both Britain and France promised that they would take military action against Hitler if he invaded Poland. Chamberlain believed that, faced with the prospect of war against Britain and France, Hitler would stop his aggression. Chamberlain was wrong. German troops invaded Poland on 1st September 1939.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles 1919, Nazi Germany was not allowed to have any military force, building, or armaments in the Rhineland area. To ensure German compliance the area was occupied by British and French troops.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Locarno 1925 Germany, France, Britain, and Italy agreed that the Rhineland should remain a demilitarized zone permanently. By June 1930 British and French troops had evacuated the area.
In January 1936 Adolf Hitler began to make plans to re-occupy the Rhineland. He argued that the move was needed as a defense strategy especially as France and the Soviet Union had renewed their alliance in 1935.
The date for occupation was set for 7th March 1936 and in the early morning, 32,000 armed German troops entered the Rhineland.
Although Nazi Germany had been steadily building up her army since 1933 it was not strong enough to hold the Rhineland if France or Britain counter-attacked. Hitler later commented “The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw..”
France was on the verge of elections and politicians were unwilling to take steps that would be unpopular with the population. French politicians and leaders knew that taking military action against Nazi Germany would be expensive and could lead to full-scale Franco-German war.
The French appealed to the British for support but many British politicians felt that Nazi Germany was simply reclaiming what was theirs anyway. Additionally, popular feeling in Britain was totally against another major war.
The League of Nations, established by the Treaty of Versailles to deal with acts such as this, condemned Hitler’s action but did not enact economic or military sanctions.
Nazi Germany – Stormtroopers Sturm Abteilung SA
(See Main Article: Nazi Germany – Stormtroopers Sturm Abteilung SA)
At the end of World War One many German soldiers became members of the Freikorps ad hoc right-wing militia groups used to break up Communist meetings and prevent a Communist uprising.
In 1920 the newly formed German Workers’ Party needed its own militia group to protect party members from hecklers and opponents. Some Freikorps members joined the party and took on this role. One such person was Ernst Röhm, a former Bavarian Army Captain. Originally called Ordnertruppe, they were re-formed as the Turn-und Sportabteilung (Sport and Gymnastic Division).
On 4th November 1921 the Nazi party held a large meeting. Large numbers of demonstrators against Hitler and the Nazi Party were prevented from disrupting the meeting by the Turn-und Sportabteilung. Following this event they became known as Sturm Abteilung (Stormtroopers) abbreviated to SA.
Hitler’s Stormtroopers wore a uniform of khaki brown shirts with swastika armband on left arm, khaki brown trousers with, brown belt, brown combat boots and khaki brown peaked cap with red trim. They were often called by the nickname Brownshirts because of the brown shirts they wore.
Following the failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 and the subsequent imprisonment of Adolf Hitler, the SA were banned from April 1924 to February 1925. To combat the ban the SA changed its name to Frontbann. Ernst Röhm who had not been imprisoned but had been discharged from the army became leader of the Frontbann. When Hitler was released from prison Röhm, who disagreed with some of his policies handed over the leadership to Wolf Graf von Helldorf and three years later, in 1928, emigrated to Bolivia.
In November 1926 Franz Felix von Pfeffer von Salomon took over the leadership. Von Salomon wanted to increase power for the SA by securing seats in the Reichstag. Hitler refused to allow the SA to play any part in government and von Salomon resigned in August 1930.
In 1931 Hitler asked Röhm to return and lead the SA. Röhm agreed and upon his return he quickly increased the membership of the SA. After the Nazis came to power in 1933 Röhm began to make moves towards merging the SA with the German army. It was his intention to become the head of the military forces in Germany. In January 1934 Röhm sent a message to the Minister of Defence, Werner von Blomberg, demanding that the SA replace the Reichswehr. Blomberg, who was already concerned about the growing power of Röhm and the SA joined forces with Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goering and Reinhard Heydrich against Ernst Röhm. A dossier was compiled that offered evidence that Ernst Röhm was secretly plotting to over throw the Nazis and take power for himself and the SA.
Presented with the ‘evidence’, Hitler had no choice but to take action and on 30th June 1934 the Night of the Long Knives saw the murder of leading members of the SA. The action, which saw the deaths of leading SA members was legalised by Hitler on July 13th when he made a speech, which was approved by the cabinet, stating that the Night of the Long Knives was an act of self-defence against the state.
After the Night of the Long Knives, the SA continued in existence but with a much reduced membership as young men chose to join the regular army rather than the SA. The rise of the SS, Schutz Staffeinel, led by Heinrich Himmler saw the elimination of the SA’s power.
Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany
In the early 1920s, the Nazi party had established a youth movement led by Kurt Gruber, with the aim of attracting young men who could be trained to become members of the SA (Stormtroopers). On 4th July 1926 the group was renamed the Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth and became attached to and run by the SA.
The Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend) wore uniforms and attended meetings and rallies where they were indoctrinated with Nazi views.
Adolf Hitler believed that the support of the youth was vital to the future of the third Reich and aimed, through the Hitler Youth programme, to produce a generation of loyal supporters of Nazi views.
Posters were used to attract more members and membership rose from 5,000 in 1925 to 25,000 in 1930.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933 other youth groups were forcibly merged into the Hitler Youth and by the end of 1933 membership stood at just over 2 million.
In December 1936, membership of the Hitler Youth became virtually compulsory for all boys and girls aged over 10 years – membership could only be avoided by not paying subscription fees, but this ‘loophole’ was relaxed in 1939 and membership increased to 8 million members by 1940.
There were separate Hitler Youth groups for boys and girls:
Boys aged 6 – 10 years joined the Little Fellows (Pimpf). They did mainly outdoor sports type activities such as hiking, rambling and camping.
Boys aged 10 – 13 years joined the German Young People (Deutsche Jungvolk). They still did sporting activities but these had a more military emphasis such as parading and marching as well as map reading. They also learnt about Nazi views on racial purity and anti-semitism.
Boys aged 14 – 18 years joined the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend). They were prepared to be soldiers by doing military activities.
Girls aged 10 – 14 years joined the Young Maidens (Jungmadel) where they were taught good health practices as well as how to become good mothers and housewives. They also learnt about Nazi views on racial purity and anti-semitism.
Girls aged 14 – 21 joined the League of German Maidens (Deutscher Madel) where they were further prepared for their roles as the mother of future Germans.
(See Main Article:
The SS was considered to be an elite force and membership was restricted to those who were pure Aryan Germans.
On 6th January 1929 Heinrich Himmler was appointed leader of the SchutzStaffel. Himmler was an ambitious man and set about building up membership of the SS.
From 1932 the SS wore black shirts with the runic symbol SS on the collar to distinguish them from the SA who wore brown shirts.
Under Himmler’s leadership the SS was divided into three sections:
The Security Section
The SD (Sicherheitsdienst)
Formed in 1931, this section of the SchutzStaffel was placed under the control of Himmler’s right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich. In its early years the SD was responsible for the security of the Nazi Party. After Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, the SD was also responsible for seeking out and dealing with those who opposed and were a threat to the leading members of the Nazi Party. The SD played a key role in discovering evidence against Ernst Rohm that ultimately lead to the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.
The Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei)
When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hermann Goering became Minister of the Interior for Prussia. This role gave Goering control of the Prussian Police force. Almost immediately he set about separating the various branches of the Police force. The political and intelligence sections were filled with Nazi Party members and merged to form a secret police force known as Geheime Staatspolizei, the Gestapo.
In April 1934 Heinrich Himmler took over as Head of the Gestapo. Under Himmler’s leadership the Gestapo was responsible for seeking out and eliminating opposition to the Nazi Party. They frequently used torture to extract confessions.
In 1935 the Gestapo was given the task of establishing concentration camps for the incarceration of ‘undesirables’, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, unemployed, disabled etc.
After the outbreak of war in 1939 members of the Gestapo made up some of the membership of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile death squads that followed the army into Poland and Russia to rid those countries of Jews and other ‘inferior’ people.
The Military Section – Waffen SchutzStaffel
After Hitler became Chancellor of Germany he ordered the creation of an armed force which would protect both himself and leading members of the Nazi Party from attack.
The first recruits, 117 men, were given the name SS-Stabswache Berlin. This was changed to SS-Sonderkommando Berlin shortly afterwards and on 3rd September Hitler re-named the group Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.
Entry requirements for the elitist Leibstandarte included:
- Proof of pure Aryan ancestry for at least 150 years
- Minimum height of 5 feet 11 inches
- Being physically fit and in excellent health
In 1934 the Leibstandarte played a prominent role in the Night of the Long Knives which saw the murder of leading members of the SA.
By 1935 membership of the Leibstandarte had increased significantly to more than 2,000. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 the Leibstandarte played a key role. Initially attached to both infantry and panzer divisions, the Leibstandarte became an independent force, the SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in 1941.
From 1941 to 1944 the Leibstandarte was engaged fighting on the Eastern Front before being moved to the Ardennes in late 1944. Pushed back by the advancing allied forces, the Leibstandarte ended its days fighting in the Battle of Berlin in 1945.
SS Verfügungstruppe (Special Purpose Troops)
Formed in 1934 the SS Verfügungstruppe, known as SS-VT, was the armed force of the Nazi Party. It was separate from the main German army, the Wehrmacht. Members of the SS-VT were often men who failed to meet the strict criteria for entry to the Leibstandarte SS.
SS-VT regiments played a pre-war role in the Anschluss with Austria, the occupation of the Sudetenland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
In 1941, at the same time as the Leibstandarte SS were made an independent force, the SS-VT were re-named the Waffen SS. The Waffen SS played key roles fighting in the European and African theatres of war.
The Concentration Camp Section
SS Totenkopfverbände (Death’s Head Units)
In 1934 Heinrich Himmler ordered Theodor Eicke, a fervent anti-semitic, anti-Bolshevik, to organise and manage the first concentration camp which had been established at Dachau (below).
Eicke set about streamlining the organisation of the camp. Many of those who had been trained by Eicke at Dachau went on to staff the camp at Sachenhausen.
In 1936 staff working in the camps were given the title SS Totenkopfverb?nde, known as SS-TK. The SS-TK had a reputation of being harsh masters, meting out tough punishments on those who did not show loyalty to the Nazi ideals.
When war broke out in 1939 the SS-TK was expanded to provide staff for all camps established in Germany, Austria and Poland.
In 1942 the SS-TK became members of the Waffen SS.
In early 1945 when it became clear that Germany would lose the war, members of the SS-TK were given orders to destroy evidence of the camps’ existence. Camps were destroyed and surviving inmates were taken on forced ‘death marches’.
At the end of the war many leading members of the SS committed suicide. Those that were captured were tried and the Nuremburg war crimes trials, many of those found guilty were executed. Some members of the SS escaped Germany and fled to South America.
The Reichstag Fire
At 10pm on 27th February 1933 the Berlin Fire Department received a call that the Reichstag building was on fire.
A young communist Marinus van der Lubbe was discovered on the premises clad in just trousers and footwear.
A number of small fires had been started around the building but most failed to take hold except the fire started in the great chamber.
Van der Lubbe and four other communists, Ernst Torgler, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, and Vassil Tanev were arrested and charged with arson and attempting to overthrow the government.
Although van der Lubbe confessed to the crime, many people believed that the real culprits were the Nazi Party, probably members of the SA.
The Case Against the Communists
Marinus van der Lubbe, a known Communist, was discovered on the premises.
Marinus van der Lubbe had organised Communist meetings
Marinus van der Lubbe confessed to the crime.
The case Against the Nazi Party
The Nazi Party were the largest party in the Reichstag but did not have a clear majority, elimination of the Communist party would give them a clear majority.
It is questionable whether Marinus van der Lubbe would have been able to start fires which caused so much damage alone.
Marinus van der Lubbe had a history of claiming sole responsibility for things he had been involved in
Karl Ernst, leader of the Berlin SA was overheard saying that if he had played a part in starting the fire he would be foolish to admit it.
On 28th February 1933 Adolf Hitler went to see President Paul Hindenburg and informed him that the fire was the result of a Communist plot. Hindenburg was convinced and signed the Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, known as the Reichstag Fire Decree.
Hitler used the Reichstag Fire Decree to arrest thousands of Communists and to ban all Communist publications. The Communist party was outlawed and not allowed to take part in the March 1933 elections (the Communist Party had gained 17% of the vote in the 1932 elections).
Without Communist opposition the Nazi Party gained 44% of the vote in the March 1933 elections. The German National People’s Party, who supported the Nazi Party gained 8% of the vote. This gave Hitler a majority in the Reichstag.
With a majority in the Reichstag Hitler was able to pass the Enabling Act 23rd March 1933. The Enabling Act gave Hitler the power to pass laws independently of the Reichstag for a period of 4 years. This effectively made him Dictator of Germany.
In July 1933 Marinus van der Lubbe, Ernst Torgler, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, and Vassil Tanev were tried on a charge of arson and attempting to overthrow the government. Van der Lubbe, who confessed to the crime, was found guilty but the others were aquitted as there was insufficient evidence against them. Marinus van der Lubbe was beheaded on 10th January 1934.
Propaganda in Nazi Germany
(See Main Article: Nazi Germany – Propaganda)
Propaganda is the art of persuading people to have a particular view about something. Propaganda is always biased. It is used by political leaders or organisations to deliberately mislead a population into believing a certain set of facts or beliefs to be true. Propaganda is used by most countries in times of war to encourage hatred towards the enemy and to promote nationalism (being in favour of one’s country) in the population.
“How the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda Radicalized Germany”
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Hitler believed so strongly in the power of propaganda that he created a post in his new government for a Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment. Joseph Goebbels (left) was the man appointed to the post.
One of the first things that Goebbels did was to establish the Reich Chamber of Culture. This new organisation was established to deal with all aspects of culture. It was sub-divided into seven departments that dealt with literature, news, radio, theatre, music, visual arts, cinema. the media, the arts and literature. Each department issued instructions as to the themes and styles that were acceptable and unacceptable to be produced. In all areas the only material that was allowed to be produced was that which promoted Nazi ideals.
The Reich Broadcasting Company had been founded in 1925 and was a network of nine German radio channels. In 1933 the company was nationalised and came under the control of Joseph Goebbels.
Goebbels saw that radio had a great potential for spreading the Nazi’s message. Loudspeakers were installed in factories and public places and the Nazi’s made it a priority to produce an inexpensive radio receiver.
The People’s Receiver 301, named after the date Hitler became Chancellor (30th January), was produced in August 1933 costing 76 Reichmarks. A cheaper version costing just 35 Reichmarks was later produced and radio ownership rose from 4 – 16 million households. Both radio sets were configured to only receive Nazi radio broadcasts but in case people were tempted to listen to other stations the Nazi’s made listening to foreign radio stations a criminal offence.
Two of the many films produced that helped to get the Nazis message to the people were Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and The Eternal Jew, a racist attack on the Jewish population.
This image shows a scene from Triumph of the Will filmed at the 1934 Nuremburg Nazi Party rally
Posters were also used to persuade people to the Nazi point of view. Those pictured below are just some of the many produced by Hitler’s Nazi Party.
(See Main Article: Adolph Hitler: His Life, Ideology, Rise, and Downfall)
In 1914, Hitler crossed the border to Germany and joined the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. He fought on the Western Front and was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery in battle. In 1918 he was temporarily blinded from a gas attack and was invalided out of the war. Hitler was dismayed when Germany lost the war and hated the Versailles Treaty and the Weimar government for signing the treaty. He dreamed of a return to the days of the Kaiser.
After the war he stayed in the army, but in intelligence. His activities led him to the German Worker’s Party led by Anton Drexler. He liked the ideas of the party and joined in 1919. Drexler realised that Adolph Hitler was something special and put him in charge of the political ideas and propaganda of the party.
In 1920, the party announced its 25-point program and was renamed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party – NAZIs.
In 1921, Hitler became leader of the party and soon began attracting attention, especially for his powerful speeches. Hitler stirred up Nationalist passion giving the people something to blame for Germany’s problems. Hitler’s opponents tried to disrupt the meetings so for protection Hitler set up the SA – Stormtroopers. Although the actual membership of the NAZI party remained quite low in this period, Hitler, through his meetings and speeches had given them a very high profile.
Adolph Hiter’s Rise To Power
(See Main Article: How Did Hitler Come to Power?)
Rise of the Nazi Party
The grim atmosphere of the early 1930s greatly contributed to the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party as it left the Germans desperate for a strong leader. They considered the German government to be weak and the actions of Bruning, the chancellor only added to the bitterness of the German nation. They suffered due to the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression left many with huge financial problems, which were only worsened by the chancellor’s decision to cut unemployment pay and wages. Thanks to a very successful propaganda campaign focused on the poor and the suffering, the Nazi Party rose from only 12 seats in Reichstag in 1928 to becoming the largest party in 1932 with 230 seats.
Although the Nazi Party had become very powerful, they lost close to two million votes in the November 1932 Reichstag elections, which meant that they only had 33 percent of the vote, and not the majority they needed. Papen, who wanted the position of vice chancellor and thought he could control Hitler, convinced Hindenburg to form a coalition with the Nazis and appoint Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg finally gave in and appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hitler’s final grab for power was when he negotiated with the Reichstag members to give him temporary “emergency” powers for four years, enabling him to act without the consent of parliament or the German constitution. While negotiations were taking place, his large military force was surrounding parliament with the threat of war, should they refuse. They didn’t have much of a choice but grant him what he wanted and Hitler became absolute ruler of Germany.
“Witnessing The Final Destruction of Hitler’s War Machine”
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The Nazi Party
(See Main Article: The Nazi Party)
On 5th January 1919, Anton Drexler together with Gottfried Feder and Dietrich Eckart founded the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei DAP (German Workers’ Party). Drexler wanted to form a party that supported the German workforce. From its earliest beginnings the party tended towards right wing politics. It was Nationalist, racist, anti-Semetic, anti-capitalist, anti-communist and determined to see a return to pre-war Germany.
Although the group only had around 40 members in 1919, the authorities were concerned that it may be a Communist group and so sent an army intelligence agent, Adolf Hitler, to investigate.
“What if the Nazis Had Won World War Two?”
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“What if the Nazis Had Won World War Two?”
For the full “History Unplugged” podcast, click here!
On September 12th 1919, Adolf Hitler attended a meeting of the German Workers’ Party. During the meeting a point was raised with which Hitler disagreed and made a passionate speech against. Anton Drexler was impressed with Hitler’s ability to speak well and invited him to join the party. After some persuasion Hitler agreed. He was the fifty-fifth person to join the group. (Later he changed his membership card to show that he was the 7th person).
On 24th February 1920 the name of the group was changed to Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei NSDP National Socialist German Workers’ Party, known as the Nazi Party. As part of its re-launch the party published its 25 point programme:
1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Nazi Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples.
2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.
3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population.
4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently, no Jew can be a member of the race.
5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Nazi Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.
6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.
7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.
8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Nazi Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.
9. All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.
10. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all Consequently we demand:
11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.
12. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
14. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.
16. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.
17. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
18. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, Schieber and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.
19. We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.
20. The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbuergerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession.
21. The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.
22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.
23. We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press. In order to enable the provision of a German press, we demand, that:
a. All writers and employees of the newspapers appearing in the German language be members of the race:
b. Non-German newspapers be required to have the express permission of the State to be published. They may not be printed in the German language:
c. Non-Germans are forbidden by law any financial interest in German publications, or any influence on them, and as punishment for violations the closing of such a publication as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-German concerned. Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands.
24. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: common utility precedes individual utility.
25. For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general. The forming of state and profession chambers for the execution of the laws made by the Reich within the various states of the confederation. The leaders of the Party promise, if necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration.
On 28th July 1921 Adolf Hitler became leader of the party. By the end of 1921 the party was fairly well established with a membership of 3000 people. The party had adopted the swastika as its symbol, the Hitler Youth had been formed for the children of party members and the SA, stormtroopers had been created as the party militia group.
Following the failed Munich Putsch – attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government, in November 1923, Hitler was imprisoned. On his release in December 1925 he resolved to win power by non-violent, legitimate means. The SA were separated from the main party and took on the role of a support group. The SS, Hitler’s personal bodyguard, took on a similar role.
The Nazi party stood for election but initially only gained a small number of seats in the Reichstag (German Parliament). They gained much more support when Germany suffered a financial crisis due to the Great Depression and after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.
% of Total Vote
The banning of the Communist party following the Reichstag fire on 27th February gave the Nazis a clear majority in parliament. The Enabling Act passed in March 1933 gave Hitler the power to make laws without consulting parliament.
During 1933 all political parties other than the Nazi party were banned, membership of the Hitler Youth was made compulsory for all teenagers, local government was taken over by the Nazis and trade unions were banned. The secret police, The Gestapo were also formed. One year later the Night of the Long Knives saw the murder of all SA leaders who disagreed with Hitler’s policies.
Following the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler combined the post of Chancellor and President to become Fuhrer of Nazi Germany. From this point until the Nazi downfall in 1945 it was Hitler as Dictator rather than the Nazi party that held true power. Members of the Nazi Party retained their positions so long as they remained in the favour of Hitler.
Leading Members of the Nazi Party
- Adolf Hitler – Fuhrer
- Rudolph Hess – Deputy leader (captured in 1941)
- Hermann Goering – Minister for Air, Commander of the Luftwaffe
- Heinrich Himmler – Head of the SS, Chief of Police
- Josef Goebbels – Propaganda Minister
- Reinhard Heydrich – Head of the Gestapo (assassinated 1942)
- Joachim von Ribbentrop – Foreign Minister
Munich Beer Hall Putsch
(See Main Article: Munich Beer Hall Putsch)
Following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm and defeat in World War One, the government of the new German Weimar Republic were forced to accept the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which included the payment of reparations to the allies of 6,600 million.
The repayments led to a devaluation of the German mark against foreign currencies and to hyperinflation in Nazi Germany. In 1923, when Germany defaulted on its repayments France occupied the Ruhr industrial region of Nazi Germany.
With popular feeling against the government, Hitler believed that the time was right for his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) to overthrow the government.
On 8th November with the support of other Socialist groups, and former World War One General Ludendorff, Hitler ordered 600 of his Stormtroopers under the command of Herman Goering to surround a Beer Hall in Munich where Conservative politician Gustav von Kahr was making a speech to 3,000 people. Also present were the local army commander, Lossow and the Bavarian police chief, Seisser. At about 8.30pm Hitler entered the hall, stood on a chair and fired a pistol shot into the ceiling. He announced to the crowd that the revolution had begun then ordered von Kahr, Lossow and Seisser into an adjoining room. After about ten minutes the group returned to the hall and Hitler announced that he had the support of all three men. When the meeting ended, Hitler immediately began planning his takeover of Munich. Von Kahr, Lossow and Seisser went straight to the authorities.
The next morning Hitler and 3,000 Nazi supporters began a march on Munich. However, it soon became apparent that the authorities had been alerted when they encountered a road block manned by 100 armed police. Shots were fired killing sixteen Nazis and four police officers. Both Hitler and Goering were injured and ran to take cover. Other Nazis also ran. Ludendorff however continued to march on, he later branded Hitler a coward and refused to have anything more to do with him.
Hitler was arrested on 12th November and charged with treason. He was found guilty at his trial in February 1924 and given a five year prison sentence. While in prison Hitler wrote his famous book Mein Kampf.
Nazi Germany – What Was The Night Of The Long Knives?
(See Main Article: What Was The Night Of The Long Knives?)
According to Britannica.com, By the end of May 1934, Hitler had been chancellor for 16 months and dictator for 14 (under the Enabling Act of March 24, 1933), but two obstacles to his absolute power remained. First was his old comrade Ernst Röhm, chief of staff of the SA (Sturmabteilung; German: “Assault Division”), or Brownshirts. Röhm wanted to have his troops incorporated into the new Wehrmacht that was being prepared to take the place of the Reichswehr, despite the fact that the conservative-minded generals were resolutely opposed to any such contamination of the army by the SA. Second, German Pres. Paul von Hindenburg was still alive and in office and, if he wished, could have stopped all of Hitler’s plans by handing power over to the Reichswehr. Hitler, knowing that military strength was necessary for his foreign policy and that antagonizing the generals could be fatal to himself, decided to sacrifice Röhm.
Also called “Operation Hummingbird” or the “Rohm-Putch,” the Night of the Long Knives was an event during which Hitler’s SS troops committed a series of political murders to rid Hitler of possible political threats. These murders of the leaders of the SA faction of the Nazi Party as well as prominent anti-Nazis took place between 30 June and 2 July 1934.
Why Murder Fellow Nazis?
During the Night of the Long Knives, many of the people who were killed were the very people who have been loyal to people and helped put him in power. Why murder them then?
The answer is mostly fear and jealousy. Other Nazi leaders such as Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering were jealous of Ernst Rohm and the power he had. Rohm was in control of the SA, an army larger than that of the German government and there were fears that Rohm and other leaders took the “National Socialism” propaganda from the early Nazi times too seriously. This would foil Hitler’s plans to suppress worker’s rights in order to get in control of the German Industry and prepare Nazi Germany for war. To further convince Hitler of the necessity of the purge, Rohm’s opponents manufactured evidence that he was planning to overthrow Hitler.
Hitler only announced what had happened on July 13 and called it the “Night of the Long Knives” after a phrase from a Nazi song. He claimed that 13 people were shot while resisting arrest and 61 executed for treason, but some have said that it may have been up to 400 people who were killed. Hitler justified himself for not relying on the court system by saying that he, himself had become the supreme judge for Nazi Germany.
Nazi Women and the Role of Women in Nazi Germany
(See Main Article: Nazi Women and the Role of Women in Nazi Germany)
Nazi women, far fewer in number than their male counterparts in the Third Reich, still played a critical role in the lead-up to and beginning of the Second World War. After all, Adolf Hitler had very clear ideas about the role of women in the Third Reich.
Women were to be the homemakers of society, cooking, cleaning, keeping house and making themselves healthy and beautiful for their racially pure husbands with whom they would produce numerous children.
From school age onwards girls were prepared for their future role and were taught appropriate subjects such as cooking and needlework as well as health and beauty.
The guidelines for being an ideal woman in Nazi Germany were as follows:
- Women should not work for a living
- Women should not wear trousers
- Women should not wear makeup
- Women should not wear high-heeled shoes
- Women should not dye or perm their hair
- Women should not go on slimming diets
On 5th July 1933 the Law for the Encouragement of Marriage was passed. This act gave all newly wed couples a loan of 1000 marks which was reduced by 25% for each child they had. If the couple went on to have four children the loan was wiped out.
Unmarried women were also encouraged to have children and for those without a husband they could visit the local Lebensborn where they could be made pregnant by a racially pure member of the SS.
On the birthdate of Hitler’s mother, August 12th, awards of the Motherhood Cross were given to women who had produced the most children. A gold cross was awarded to mothers of 8 or more children, silver to mothers of 6 children and bronze to mothers of four children.
Not all women approved of Hitler’s view of their role. Many of these were intellectuals – doctors, scientists, lawyers, judges, teachers etc who did not want to give up their jobs and stay at home. In protest against Hitler’s anti-feminist policies they joined left-wing opposition groups. If caught they faced being sent to concentration camps as political prisoners.
In October 1933, the first concentration camp for females was opened at Moringen, Germany. In 1938 a second camp for women was established at Lichtenburg and in 1939 a third at Ravensbruck.
In 1937, as Germany prepared for war, Nazi women were needed to supplement the male workforce and a new law was passed which stipulated that all women should work a ‘Duty Year’ of patriotic work in one of the country’s factories to further the Nazi cause. Some women were persuaded by advertising posters to volunteer for the SS support service for women. The Nazi women selected were mostly lower or lower middle class; after undergoing a period of training they were put to work as female guards at the concentration camps.
Nazi Germany – Patton’s Entrance in 1945
(See Main Article: Patton’s Entrance Into Germany in 1945)
The final stage of World War II in the European Theatre commenced with the Western Allied invasion of Germany. It began with the crossing of the River Rhine in March 1945, with forces fanning out and overrunning all of Western Germany until their final surrender on May 8, 1945.
“Patton and Churchill’s Experiences Before and During World War Two”
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Patton knew his entrance into German-occupied territory was of monumental historical importance. So he decided to imitate William the Conqueror’s entrance into England before leading Norman forces in their heroic conquest of the entire island in 1066.
On the night of March 22, 1945, elements of the Third Army crossed the Rhine at the German town of Oppenheim. To their surprise, they were not opposed by enemy forces. Patton, not wanting to compromise his army’s success with publicity, telephoned Omar Bradley the following morning and uncharacteristically told him to keep it a secret. “Brad, don’t tell anyone, but I’m across.” A surprised Bradley responded, “Well, I’ll be damned. You mean across the Rhine?” “Sure am,” Patton replied, “I sneaked a division over last night. But there are so few Krauts around there they don’t know it yet. So don’t make any announcement—we’ll keep it a secret until we see how it goes.”
By that evening, the Germans had discovered Patton’s forces, and perhaps more important, Patton’s British rival, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, was preparing to cross the Rhine as well. So Patton called Bradley again. “Brad, for God’s sake tell the world we’re across . . . . I want the world to know Third Army made it before Monty starts across,” he shouted.
The following day Patton arrived at the pontoon bridge his engineers had constructed over the Rhine. He made his way halfway across the bridge before suddenly halting. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Patton said as he unzipped his fly and urinated into the river while an Army photographer recorded the moment for posterity. When he reached the other side of the river, Patton pretended to stumble, imitating William the Conqueror, who famously fell on his face when landing in England but transformed the bad omen into a propitious one by leaping to his feet with a handful of English soil, claiming it portended his complete possession of the country.
Patton similarly arose, clutching two handfuls of German earth in his fingers, and exclaimed, “Thus, William the Conqueror!” That evening Patton sent a communiqué to General Eisenhower: “Dear SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force], I have just pissed into the Rhine River. For God’s sake, send some gasoline.”
On March 23, 1945, Eisenhower wrote a warm letter to Patton:
I have frequently had occasion to state, publicly, my appreciation of the great accomplishments of this Allied force during the past nine months. The purpose of this note is to express to you personally my deep appreciation of the splendid way in which you have conducted Third Army operations from the moment it entered battle last August 1. You have made your Army a fighting force that is not excelled in effectiveness by any other of equal size in the world, and I am very proud of the fact that you, as one of the fighting commanders who has been with me from the beginning of the African campaign, have performed so brilliantly throughout. We are now fairly started on that phase of the campaign which I hope will be the final one. I know that Third Army will be in at the finish in the same decisive way that it has performed in all the preliminary battles.
A week before the Rhine crossing, Patton had held a press conference in which he delivered a classic performance, mixing the humorous, provocative, and the profane. He announced that the Third Army would shortly capture its 230,000th prisoner of war. Having previously been denied permission to photograph the face of the 200,000th prisoner (the Geneva Convention required that a prisoner be protected against acts of “public curiosity”), Patton announced that “this time we will take a picture of his ass.” (A week later their POW capture would top 300,000.)
Patton also requested the help of the press corps in informing the Germans that four of his armored divisions were slashing away at them. The publicity was “not for me—God knows I’ve got enough—I could go to heaven and St. Peter would recognize me right away—but it is for the officers and the men.” Patton then complained “that the Marines go to town by reporting the number [of their men] killed, I always try to fight without getting [our] people killed.”
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